- My background makes me deeply sympathetic to the concerns that motivate many on the contemporary political right, especially those considered to be Trump’s “base.” I grew up in West Virginia. In the 2016 election, Trump won 67.85 percent of the vote in West Virginia with Hillary Clinton taking 26.18 percent. That’s about a 42 per cent margin, probably the highest in the country.
- I didn’t merely grow up in West Virginia, I grew up in McDowell County, West Virginia. In my youth I lived in what was possibly the poorest county in the poorest state. The poverty there is so deep and so persistent that in 2014 the New York Times used McDowell County in an article portraying it as the poster child of poverty in America.
- My father and both grandfathers were coal miners. I know what life is like when the family breadwinner is laid off or out of work due to coal mine injuries. I understand the humiliation of surviving on food stamps and commodities when unemployment and workman’s compensation benefits run out.
- Finally, I grew up in the evangelic tradition. My maternal grandfather, Willard “Bear” Porter was a coal miner and lay Baptist preacher. While I demonstrate few overt signs of religiosity today, Christian ideas are in my blood and I believe better understanding of key Biblical teachings can help both conservatives and liberals. My essay Lesson for Liberals #3, which uses Matthew 15:1-14 to make an important point about current political dialog, is an illustration.
- As a practicing lawyer for 37 years I learned that the most valuable thing I provided my clients was objective advice. I had to be equally able to tell clients “Your case is a loser. You should settle immediately” or “You stand to win lots of money through settlement or litigation if need be.”
- My professional experience from 1994 until I retired in 2018 further improved my ability to analyze objectively. As a lawyer for Inspectors General in three federal agencies I supported teams of criminal investigators and auditors who worked to reduce government waste and fraud. Our work had to be like Caesar’s wife with regard to politics. We could not do our jobs effectively if perceived to be partisan. In this job I worked frequently, and usually successfully, in dealing with members of Congress and their staffs, both Republicans and Democrats. Objectivity was essential.
- While I consider myself far from being a skilled negotiator, I enjoy the consensus-building aspect of negotiations, finding areas of common ground and reducing conflict. I am definitely not a negotiations expert, but I have had some experience and I have benefited from negotiation training at the Harvard Program on Negotiations for Lawyers and The Brookings Institution.
- I have some understanding of using the Internet for effective communications. In 1999 the American Bar Association published my successful book, The Complete Internet Handbook for Lawyers. I stopped work in this area in 2003 because I decided to devote my attention to my “day job” as a civil service lawyer, specifically supporting the work of Inspectors General as described above.
- Finally, the last important work I did concerning the Internet was a series of articles explaining the advantages of blogs. The last such article, Blogs As A Disruptive Technology, in the ABA’s Law Practice magazine, was my favorite. The thesis was that blogs are a great tool for people with little money but good ideas who want to reach a large audience. This is why Truth Squad Central uses a blog built into a conventional website.
The Most Important Qualification
I am deeply concerned about the state of our national discourse and believe that my background may conceivably enable me to make things better in at least a small way. I want to make a difference and am determined to find out if this is possible..